The past six days and the news preceding games that Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina, and Steve Downie had been traded to the San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche (respectively) was jarring in its timing. In three different instances, the Lightning (only minutes from game time in two of three cases), dealt front line players, two of whom (Moore and Kubina) were highly speculated upon this trade season.
The tone was set on the morning of Thursday, February 16th, when Pavel Kubina was kept out of practice and scratched from that night's game as the team explored trade options for the veteran defenseman. Kubina's scratching was to protect his potential trade value - he's no good as a trade chip if he was hurt.
While I do not believe the Bolts are going into all-out fire sale mode as some would have you believe, and while I do not think the Bolts are so far from contention that they need to orchestrate an entire revamping of the roster... Well, that doesn't mean others will not approach the Lightning regarding the availability of certain roster players, with general manager Steve Yzerman looking at things from all angles before making a decision to move a player or not.
With the 2012 NHL trade deadline still five days away, you've got to wonder who else on the Bolts roster may be expendable?
First thing's first: with Moore, Kubina and Downie traded from the Lightning roster, the players with (arguably) the highest trade value on the active roster have been dealt. Downie had the highest trade value of the three, being only 24 and a restricted free agent after the season, the Colorado Avalanche didn't just pick up a rental player in Downie, but a longer term investment. That was why the Avs gave up a top-four defenseman in Kyle Quincey in return for Downie (which the Bolts then traded to the Detroit Red Wings for the Wings 1st round selection in this year's draft and defenseman Sebastien Piche).
But the truth that carried over in all three players dealt so far is that they were in their contract years with the club. Taking that into consideration, the veteran presences remaining with the club, who are in contract years before entering unrestricted free agency are Brett Clark, Bruno Gervais, Matt Gilroy, Adam Hall, and Ryan Shannon. Brendan Mikkelson is a looming restricted free agent.
(Note: Mike Angelidis, Dwayne Roloson and Trevor Smith are also in contract years. Roloson's trade value is negligible with thanks to his performance this season, and the AHL veterans in Angelidis, Smith and Wyman will likely be retained if for no other reason than the Norfolk Admirals playoff push)
- Brett Clark: Of the players in contract years with the Bolts, Clark seems the most likely to be moved before the NHL trade deadline. With his shot blocking abilities, he has something to offer potential playoff teams. On the other hand, he's a minus-20 on the season and has more giveaways (30) than takeaways (20). His experience still makes him the most valuable of the aforementioned players.
- Bruno Gervais: I'll be curt and say I don't see much value in moving Gervais. He is even on plus/minus, eats minutes on defense, does all the work without the flash. I don't see teams calling about him, nor do I see Steve Yzerman trying to part with him.
- Matt Gilroy: Signed in the 2011 off-season, Gilroy has been a bit of a project for the Bolts on defense. Matt had found himself scratched early in the season as he adapted to Guy Boucher's system, but I believe he's shown he belongs in Tampa in the future. Unless Steve Yzerman is offered another high draft pick in exchange for Gilroy (who is plus-two with 16 points on the season), I sooner expect to see Matt re-signed by the Lightning than moved before Monday's deadline.
- Adam Hall: Adam Hall is not flashy. Adam Hall is not over-the-top or in-your-face. He's a gritty worker and he will do the job on the bottom forward lines, and do it well. But a player with three points on the season and a minus-six statistically isn't going to fetch much in trade. Unless the Bolts are in true fire sale mode (and to the Downie fans out there, it may seem like it) I don't see a reason why the 31-year-old Hall must be dealt. Of course, a veteran with playoff experience is always a sought after commodity, but I don't see Hall as being chased.
- Brendan Mikkelson: The Bolts acquired Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames earlier in the season, in exchange for center Blair Jones. Mikkelson's job was to be a large body on the Bolts D while the team was without the services of defenseman Victor Hedman, and generally banged up on the blueline. I don't see Mikkelson as available, as he has proven himself to be sound and dependable. Unlike Steve Downie, Mikkelson isn't arbitration eligible after the season, and should not be a problem to re-sign.
- Ryan Shannon: I'm disappointed in Shannon, who was signed by the Lightning to a one-year contract in the 2011 offseason. Shannon has speed, but lacks scoring touch - he has nine points during his injury marred season. I don't see Ryan as a sought-after commodity whatsoever at the deadline.
This brings me to the dark horses of the trade deadline: the two players under contract that I could see being moved. While I said Brett Clark has the highest trade value of the pending UFAs/RFAs, it's Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell whom have the potentially highest trade value left on the Lightning roster.
Ryan Malone: Before you panic and think that the end is nigh because Bugsy has trade value, let me dump some cold water on the idea and say that this is Ryan "No Trade Clause" Malone. It's Ryan "Battling Injuries" Malone. Ryan has never played a full season of games with the Lightning, battling injuries throughout his TB career... Most recently, one vague upper-body injury or another kept him out for an eight game stretch (from just before the All-Star break in January until February 14th). This is going to make teams shy away. Then there's the No Trade Clause as was mentioned, which will either limit or outright stop the ability for the Bolts to move Bugsy anywhere, especially if Ryan doesn't want to go anywhere to begin with.
But the gritty forward may be a risk worth taking for a contending team in need of a top-six wing, and his name has been mentioned as often as departed center Dominic Moore in trade speculation.. Malone has playoff experience to boot. But getting around Malone's clause would be the ultimate factor in whether Malone stays or goes.
- Teddy Purcell: Like Steve Downie, you wouldn't think that Teddy is going to be moved, but if the offer is right, I can see him being shipped out in spite of the fact he is signed through 2012-13. The 26 year-old right wing is a bit of an enigma - when he struggles, he finds himself in the dog house; when he's on, he's en fuego. It's because of the bi-polar aspect of Purcell's game that I would think the Lightning would listen to offers for his services.
That being said, the Lightning raiding their forward corps without bodies in return wouldn't just hurt the NHL team as it would also sting the Norfolk Admirals, due to call ups to replace departed players on the Lightning roster. The Lightning are not out to hurt the overall organization while picking up assets for the long run.
Does that mean there will be no further dealing by Steve Yzerman from this point forward? I wouldn't bet against things, but I would like to stress that the Bolts aren't in position to simply keep dealing roster players for draft picks and throw-in prospects. At one point or another, players who can play on the active roster immediately are going to have to be part of a return for someone moved. You can't keep subtracting without adding something back while there are still games to be played in the 2011-12 NHL season.
The 2012 NHL trade deadline is Monday at 3 PM. As things have shown in the past week of roster moves, anything is possible until the deadline arrives. What is likely for the Tampa Bay Lightning is anyone's guess.